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Hoarseness (Laryngitis)

horseness.hrHoarseness describes any abnormal change in the voice. It might be raspy, breathy, strained, or crack frequently, and there could be differences in volume and pitch. Most often hoarseness is brought about by disorders of the larynx (voice box). It rarely lasts long, but can cause a lot of discomfort and may be indicative of a serious condition if it persists longer than two weeks.

What Causes Hoarseness?

There are a variety of conditions that can lead to hoarseness. Colds and sinus infections are the most common causes, but other factors include allergies, acid reflux (LPR), smoking, overuse of the vocal cords, thyroid conditions, neurological disorders, trauma to the voice box, chemical irritants, and certain types of polyps or cancer.

If your hoarseness has lasted for longer than two weeks, or is accompanied by difficulty breathing or swallowing, you should seek medical attention by an ENT Specialist.

Your ENT Specialist will give you a thorough physical examination and look at your throat and mouth with a fiberoptic laryngoscope. He or she may order a throat culture, blood tests, x-rays, or a CT scan in order to make a proper diagnosis. Biopsy may also be indicated.


Treatment for hoarseness varies, depending on the cause. It’s usually temporary and will disappear once the viral infection has run its course. In the meantime, there are steps you can take to help ease your symptoms. Rest your voice as much as possible to avoid putting strain on the vocal cords. Keep hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids, and use a humidifier or vaporizer to moisten the air.

Vocal polyps and nodules can be treated surgically, and anti-reflux medication can help reduce flare-ups associated with GERD. Physical speech and voice therapy may be useful in certain types of hoarseness.

If hoarseness is recurrent, take steps to prevent or eliminate it in the future. Quit smoking, and stay away from alcohol and caffeine, which can dehydrate the body. Avoid foods that are spicy, and make sure to moisten the air in your home. Do not misuse your voice: yelling and whispering can be very stressful on the vocal cords.

If you suffer from persistent hoarseness or laryngitis, please contact our office and schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified ENT specialists.

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